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Instead of Bombing Dictators in Libya and Around the World, Stop Selling Them Bombs

If the bitter lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan has taught us anything, it's that wars of liberation exact a deadly toll on those they purportedly liberate.

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In Yemen, which has received more than $300 million in military aid from the U.S. over the last five years, the Obama administration continues to support corrupt thug and president-for-life Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently ordered  a massacre of more than 50 of his own citizens who dared protest his rule. And this support has allowed the U.S. can carry out its own massacres under the auspices of the war on terror, with one American bombing raid last year taking out 41 Yemeni civilians, including 14 women and 21 children,  according to Amnesty International.

Rather than engage in cruise missile liberalism, Obama could save lives by immediately ending support for these brutal regimes. But for U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, arms sales appear to trump liberation. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute documented that Washington accounted for 54 percent of arms sales to Persian Gulf states between 2005 and 2009.

Last September, the  Financial Times reported that the U.S. had struck deals to provide Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman with $123 billion worth of arms. The repressive monarchy of Saudi Arabia accounts for over half that figure, with it set to receive $67 billion worth of weapons, including 84 F-15 jets, 70 Apache gunships, 72 Black Hawk helicopters, 36 light helicopters and thousands of laser-guided smart bombs – the largest weapons deal in U.S. history.

Instead of forking over $150 million a day to the weapons industry to attack Libya or selling $67 billion in weapons to the Saudis so they can repress not just their own people, but those of Bahrain, we – the ones being asked to forgo Social Security to help pay for empire – should demand those who purport to represent us in Washington stop arming dictators in our name. That might drain some bucks from the merchants of death, but it would give non-violent protesters throughout the Middle East a fighting chance to liberate themselves.

The U.S. government need not drop a single bomb in the Middle East to help liberate oppressed people. All it need do is stop selling bombs to their oppressors.
 

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK:Women for Peace.

Charles Davis is an independent journalist based in Nicaragua. His reporting and commentary on everything from the war on drugs to Western foreign policy toward the developing world has been published by outlets including Inter Press Service, AlterNet and Common Dreams, and has aired on public radio stations from New York City to San Diego. To see more of his work, visit his website .

 
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